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The Limavady Players from County Derry

The following article was printed in the Irish News (Belfast) on Thursday 26 June 1930.

LIMAVADY PLAYERS AND THEIR PLAYS.

Belfast Empire programme

Romance of a Northern Company's Rise to Fame

Mr Gerald MORRISON, of the Empire Theatre Belfast, has done much to foster native talent by giving local actors an opportunity of appearing before city audiences. Among the amateur companies he has thus assisted is the band of enthusiasts known as The Limavady Players. Those who have seen these talented actors and actresses on the stage of the popular Belfast house and in other local performances in the country will welcome the opportunity afforded below of learning something about their “off-stage” personalities.

SPECIAL TO THE “IRISH NEWS”

Only a few days ago a man asked me if the Limavady Players really belonged to Limavady; he had seen them acting, and seemingly struck by their professionalism, doubted that they belonged to that town. They do, and there is quite a romance behind the rise from charity performances in local halls to their appearances before the footlights of city theatres.

Formerly known as the Limavady Amateur Dramatic Club, they produced plays usually of the old and one time popular type of Irish melodrama. In this they gained a certain fame for finished acting and good production, and there was strong demand for their services as charity performers in neighbouring towns.

FIRST ESSAY AT MODERN PLAYS

About 1920 the present manager, Mr Frank COGHLAN JP took them in hand, and two years later they essayed modern Irish drama producing, working such authors as Louis J WALSH, Charles KERR, D M'LAUGHLIN etc.

One of the most popular of these was “The Auction of Killybuck” by Louis J WALSH, which was eventually presented in practically every town and village in the north-west. In 1926 Mr COGHLAN secured the exclusive rights of Mr George SHIEL's “Paul Twyning”. Their production was an instantaneous success, indeed from that production may be dated the Limavady Players as we now know them.

Professor Tim programme

SLOW MOVING MANAGERS

At first city theatres were reluctant to risk a native play, written by a native, and played by native players. The managers felt that there was no audience for anything except the modern revue or variety show. “Paul Twyning” was, however, given its chance, and it made an immediate hit; creating records both in Belfast and Derry.

Within a period of three years more than 90 performances were given in Belfast and 50 in Derry.

The next plays produced by the Players were “Moodie in Manitoba” and “Professor Tim” in which it was held that they did their best work.

THE PLAYERS

Most interesting of all are the players recruited from a town which, incidentally, has no decided accent. Mr O'KANE, who made a wonderful study of Dan Deegan in “Paul Twyning” and later of John Scally in “Professor Tim” is a cattle dealer, but rather an odd type of cattle dealer. He reads and reads and can quote Shakespeare in any mood or at any length. He is fond of reading plays, and writing plays, and playing in plays: indeed he is in his element on the stage.

There is Mr C M'LOUGHLIN, the professor in “Professor Tim”, who is a postman, and who has been acting for more than twenty years. A wit, he is much in demand for his studies of local characters: he can undertake practically any part in any play successfully.

Mr P QUIGLEY, who fills the role of “Paul Twyning” with such success, is perhaps better known as “Moodie” in “Moodie in Manitoba” from his perfect study of a Belfast painter, is a farm produce and spirit merchant. In the old years he specialised in parts like “Con” in “Con from Shaughran” but was also a success as a lead.

FORMER ACTOR

Mr Dan M'CANN, the ratty little farmer in “Paul Twyning” is in life a farmer and a breeder of greyhounds, and reared “Prince Roe” possibly the best long distance hurdler competing in 1928-29. As Denis M'Gothigan in “Paul Twyning” Mr M'CANN was probably the most true to life study in the play, but to his personal liking is the part of “Paddy Kinney” in “Professor Tim”.

Mr Harry M'LOUGHLIN, the lawyer in “Paul Twyning” like his colleague Mr E [M']Loughlin is also a postman. P FORREST, a newcomer to the band, is a student, though one would not think so when one sees him as “Pat Deegan” the wild publican in “Paul Twyning”. Mr Ben PALMER, “O'Cahan” in “Professor Tim” and Nolan in “Moodie in Manitoba” is a draughtsman in a shipyard and an artist with a pencil.

Professor Tim programme

THE 14-YEAR OLD PLAYER

Mr M FORREST is another student, who works overtime swotting for examinations, yet finds time to give a mature study of Joe Kilroy as the “Gom” in “Professor Tim”. C GALLAGHER, who is just 14 years old, and a student at the Limavady Technical School, is Patk. Deegan's son in “Paul Twyning” and Miss Peggy Garnett “Peggy Scally” in “Professor Tim” and Nora in “Moodie in Manitoba” is a new recruit who plays as a veteran.

THE TYPIST ACTRESS

Miss M DEVLIN, the “Yankee” in “Paul Twyning” was never in America. She has filled the roles of Mrs Scally in “Professor Tim” , Bridget Flannery in “Moodie in Manitoba” and a dozen other parts, all with equal relish. She “walked on” at an hours notice, and has undertaken parts with astonishing success, yet she is but a modest clerk and typist.

Miss I REA, the shy, careworn publican's wife in “Paul Twyning” and Mrs Kilroy in “Professor Tim” and Margaret Jane in “The Auction of Killybuck” is also a typist. As Rose in “Paul Twyning” she is innocent and unsophisticated, but she feels happier as Moll Flannigan in “Professor Tim”

Incidentally, the Limavady Players at the moment are engaged producing two new plays to add to the repertoire for this summer season in Portrush.

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